Explore Palm Springs: Thomas O'Donnell

Multimillionaire's home still sits atop a hill overlooking Palm Springs



(From left) Dr. Winnifred Willis Jenny and her husband, Thomas O'Donnell, sit with Nellie Coffman watching a rodeo at the Field Club.

Courtesy of Palm Springs Historical Society

 

The Limelight News, the only home-owned, home-published, home-printed newspaper in Palm Springs announced in the Feb. 22, 1945 edition that the beloved pioneer resident and philanthropist Thomas O’Donnell had died.

Many Palm Springs residents paid final tribute, and city offices and businesses closed for several hours at midday. Chimes were rung from the public address system on the hillside at 12:15 and 12:30 p.m. announcing to the hundreds of Villagers, including many of O’Donnell’s oldest and closest friends, that the memorial service was about to start.

The service was held at the entrance gate of the O’Donnell golf course. Simultaneously, services were held in Los Angeles.

O’Donnell came to Palm Springs in the early 1920s seeking relief from a respiratory condition. He stayed at the Desert Inn and enjoyed “Mother” Nellie Coffman’s well-known hospitality. A friendship ripened between the two and it grew into an advantageous business arrangement.

Coffman’s wish to rebuild and expand The Desert Inn and O’Donnell’s desire for a separate home resulted in a deal. W.C. Tanner served as the architect of both projects, and Coffman served as building contractor and straw boss. O’Donnell also had a private golf course added to his estate.

He had been suffering from a heart ailment for many years and built a home (now the clubhouse at the O’Donnell Golf Club) that was easier to get to than his mansion built on the hill looking over the village that he loved.

He was removed by ambulance from his Palm Springs home and taken to Wilshire Hospital in Los Angles, and it was there that he passed away.

Add your comment:
Edit Module
Desert Guide
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Related Articles

Explore Palm Springs: City is Filmmaker Haven

The Palm Springs International Film Festival draws thousands of film enthusiasts from all over the world to the Coachella Valley, but the desert has for many decades been a haven for filmmakers.

Explore Palm Springs: Bob Hope Desert Classic

When he was asked to lend his name and support in the early 1960s, the Thunderbird Invitational Pro-Am became the Bob Hope Desert Classic, creating a major stop on the PGA Tour for years to come.

Explore Palm Springs: Joseph Magnin Store

Liberace attended the ribbon cutting ceremony when Joseph Magnin’s opened a high-end specialty department store on Jan. 2, 1970, in Palm Springs' Desert Fashion Plaza.

Explore Palm Springs: President Gerald Ford

President Gerald Ford served as Grand Marshal for the 1978 Tournament of Roses Parade, and posed for publicity photos with Rose Queen Maria Lynn Caren at his Rancho Mirage home.

Explore Palm Springs: Ronald Reagan

The Republican Governors’ Association gathering in Palm Springs in December 1968 brought plenty of political firepower, including then Govenor Ronald Reagan, Congressman Gerald Ford, Pat Buchanan, and the President-elect, Richard Nixon.
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Promotions + Contests

Fashionista Friends

Fashionista Friends

Experience the glitz and glamour of Fashion Week El Paseo 2015.
2014/15 Best of the Best

2014/15 Best of the Best

Palm Springs Life’s annual Best of the Best. Readers tell us who their choice is for the “Best of the Best” of the Coachella Valley in over 40 categories.
GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

GuestLife Magical Monterey Bay Experience

Food + Wine Festival Grand Experience

Food + Wine Festival Grand Experience

Enter for a Chance to Win a Food + Wine Festival Palm Desert 2015 Grand Experience
Cartoon Caption Contest

Cartoon Caption Contest

Each month, we provide a vintage 1950’s cartoon illustrated by Alice Rovinsky. You are invited to submit a caption or vote for your favorite caption.
Edit ModuleShow Tags